Myanmar’s junta will likely hold elections in 2025, even as the military struggles to crush resistance to its rule, officials of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) said on Tuesday.
The military justified its February 2021 putsch with unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in 2020 elections won resoundingly by the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
The coup ended a 10-year democratic experiment and plunged the country into turmoil, with the military now battling opponents across swathes of the country.
“Elections are likely to be held in 2025,” said a senior member of the military proxy party, requesting anonymity.
“We have a census-taking process in 2024. Because of the situation [in Myanmar] and that nationwide census process, next year is impossible,” they said.
A member of a junta-approved party said it was likely “elections will be held in early 2025,” without elaborating.
A junta spokesman did not pick up AFP calls seeking comment.
Thirty-six political parties have been granted permission to take part in any future polls, the junta-stacked election commission said Tuesday, without giving a date for when they would be held.
Seven had been approved to compete countrywide, and 29 on a regional level.
It also announced the scrapping of the first-past-the-post system—under which the NLD won crushing majorities at the expense of military-backed parties.
A proportional representation system would be used across the country instead, it said.
In March, the election commission dissolved the NLD for failing to re-register under tough new military-authored rules.
Suu Kyi co-founded the NLD in 1988, and won a landslide victory in 1990 elections that were subsequently annulled by the then-junta.
The party carried the torch for democratic aspirations in military-ruled Myanmar and later won big victories in elections in 2015 and 2020.
Its leadership has been decimated in the junta’s bloody crackdown on dissent, with one former lawmaker executed by the junta in the country’s first use of capital punishment in decades.
The junta accepts it does not control swathes of the country and has previously pushed back the timeline for holding polls.
“It’s highly uncertain if and when polls will take place. There is no discernible timetable,” independent analyst David Mathieson told AFP.
“It shouldn’t have to be re-emphasised, but any poll any time under whatever conditions will be bereft of legitimacy and meaning.”
Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing called for “necessary preparations” to be completed ahead of the national census in 2024, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported on Saturday.
An election can only take place after a census has been completed, the paper reported him as saying.
The United States has said any elections under the junta would be a “sham” and analysts say they would be targeted by the junta’s opponents.
Russia, a major ally and arms supplier to the regime, has said it backs the plan for polls.
Khin Yi, chair of the USDP, said his party was preparing for a future election.
“There have been threats,” he said, without elaborating.
“However, I’m moving forward… This time is the period to motivate our party,” he added.
The army ruled Myanmar for decades after independence from Britain in 1948, and dominated the country’s economy and politics even before the coup.
Myanmar remains mired in almost daily bomb blasts and fighting, with thousands of civilians caught up in the violence.